Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Revelation vs Education

There are some people who think I am against education. Having run a school for nearly ten years and being a huge fan of home schooling should prove otherwise. I personally take online courses, not for credits, but to keep my mind active and, I pray, expanding. I am also a avid reader, desiring to gain knowledge because I believe the Lord wants us to be knowledgeable. However, I believe we need to be wise, selective and need to keep education in its proper perspective. Revelation is far more important than education.

There are many people who read, study and educate themselves on the Word of God. They learn everything that present day scholars teach. They have a real thirst for learning from theologians but you don't have to be a believer to be called a theologian. A theologian is simply someone who studies religious things. Theology is simply the study and analysis of divine things and religious truth ( This makes you no more a Christian than studying fish makes you a trout. Yet, in the pursuit of knowledge, Christians hang on the words of people who have no relationship with Jesus, who have never received any kind of revelation concerning the things they study. They teach from the same perspective as a history teacher: one who has studied the facts, analysed them and feeds them to students. A history teacher has not experienced the history he teaches.

Tell me, how did Peter come to confess that Jesus was the Son of God? Some mistakenly think that it was simply by observation and coming to a conclusion after much analysis. We forget, Peter was a fisherman not a theologian. Isn't it interesting that Jesus surrounded himself with the common man and not the scholars of his day. Could it be that he needed to have men who were open to the divine inspiration of Yahweh instead of steeped in the opinions and thoughts of man? This was Jesus' response to Peter's declaration:

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)

Simon did not gain this knowledge from books, scholars or anyone else's opinion. Simon Peter gained this knowledge directly from Father. We call it revelation. It continues to happen today.

There is a difference in attitude in approach to Bible study when we study to simply gain facts compared to seeking revelation. One is nothing more than gaining information that we could use in trivial games; how many books are in the Bible, who was Peter's father, was Jesus crucified on the Wednesday or Friday? This can fill our head with a lot of knowledge facts but leave our heart empty of any relationship, and it is always about relationship. However, when we study to see more of Jesus and to understand better the Father's heart; when we want to know how to live to bless Father and what his promises are to us, we are putting ourselves in a position to receive revelation. Revelation is simply something revealed that had been hidden from us. Much of the depth of the Word can only be understood by revelation.

When we open the Word of God it is a healthy approach to believe that Yahweh wants to teach us. It is healthy because it is the truth. Jesus told us:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)

Paul the apostle testified to this fact:

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13)

So we have this problem in the Body of Christ: Most people do not read their Bibles and those who do read do it from the perspective of gaining knowledge not revelation. It means we have a lot of brothers and sisters running around who are immature in their understanding of the Trinity, the Church and the Kingdom. They base their actions and decisions on what they are told and taught, with very few receiving direct revelation from the Spirit. It means that as the winds change so does the mind. Those who base their understanding on the teaching of man will change as man's opinion changes but the Word is solid and unchanging. It is a dangerous situation in the Church as the curtain continues to be drawn.

If you are one who has no direct revelation of Jesus Christ you have the ability to change it. Change your expectations. Expect to receive instructions and understanding from the Spirit. Allow him to become your teacher and guide. Also approach the Word with the prayer of the psalmist:

Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.

Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day. (Psalm 25:4-5)

May we all seek fresh revelation in the Word every day and may we serve our Lord Jesus to the very end of the age.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Problem Of Spiritual Blindness

I cannot imagine what it would be like to be blind for life. I can close my eyes and have a moment of understanding but I also live with the reality that all I need do is open my eyes and I will see my smiling child's face, or the beauty of the sunrise, or the words of my book, or the colours of the day. I cannot know what it is to live with the reality of living in blindness to the wonderful sights of this world. But far worse is the reality of living with spiritual blindness.

Unfortunately spiritual blindness is in epidemic proportions in the Church. We sit next to people every Sunday who have no more than a surface understanding of Christ. They live with a shallowness of faith that perpetuates their blindness while they have no clue, thinking themselves to be mature and in good standing. They may get angry a lot, perhaps even abusive, constantly make decisions to their own profit, focus everything on them, see everything with themselves in the center and experience life according to their emotions, but in their own eyes they are okay because they go to church.

Due to the shallowness of their faith they go no further than adopting the moral benefits of the Scriptures. They even adopt Jesus' teachings and do their best to apply it to their lives. They do it without ever experiencing Jesus himself. It is possible to change things by living on the surface of faith, holding onto a shallow explanation. Behaviours can be changed by human will, we can conform to our environment, we can speak boldly, testify to Jesus' greatness and yet not possess Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 16 we find the disciples in a boat with Jesus. He has just feed the crowd of four thousand and has dealt with the religious leaders who demanded a sign from him. The disciples were talking among themselves because they just realized that they had forgotten to bring bread. At that moment Jesus started to warn them against the yeast of the religious leaders. We read this:

And they reasoned among themselves saying, "It is because we have taken no bread." (v. 7)

It had nothing to do with the bread they had forgotten and everything to do with the mindset and teaching of the spiritual leaders of the day. Jesus was warning them to stay clear of such nonsense because the leaders thought that by following strict teaching on the Law and traditions that they would earn their salvation. But the disciples were too dull spiritually to understand. They reasoned among themselves that it must have something to do with the bread they had forgot to bring. Even though they were taught by Jesus, hung out with him, saw all the miracles, they could not get past the surface understanding. They did not have faith, yet.

It is possible to gain all kinds of moral benefits from Scripture but that isn't the point. The point is to possess and be possessed by Jesus. Salvation requires faith and faith is a gift from Father. Only faith will allow us to go to the depths of the Word. Only faith will give us eyes to see the spiritual behind everything in our day. Only faith lifts us above the physical to dwell in the spiritual. Only faith allows us to see, hear and speak with Jesus.

The Word is not about morality although it contains much of it. The Word is about revealing the heart of Yahweh, his love for us, and his great plan to rescue us. The morality is a fruit of this great revelation, that, as we accept Jesus, we are transformed into a child of Yahweh and the fruit of morality is produced as we take off our old garments and put on the new. I always found that the Spirit spoke the truth with such eloquence through Paul in Romans 12:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

The rebirth of our mind, so that we can see, understand and accept the will of Father. The death of spiritual blindness is the embrace of the faith that Father gives to us as a gift. We cannot generate faith on our own, we do not possess the capability. If we ask for it Father will provide it and then we will dive past the shallowness of understand and find great wealth in the depths of faith.

Do not satisfy yourself with the shallow understanding of conformity but instead have your eyes fully opened to the wonders of the transformation Father desires for you through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. Do not find satisfaction in your blindness but desire Jesus with all your heart. Seek his face and you will find him. Step into the light and the darkness will fall away. You will see, you will understand and you will be glad for it. The only problem is that the blind seldom realize they are blind.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Loving Without Compromise In A Divided Home

Things are changing very quickly in the Church's relationship with the world and we are beginning to see large divisions in the Church herself. There is a great spirit of confusion because the enemy is taking advantage of the fact that people do not know their Bible. Even though we have more resources available to us than ever before, biblical illiteracy is incredibly high. When we don't know what Jesus taught it becomes easy for the enemy to change our heart with a changing of the wind as we are seeing in our society of late.

At the end of the Old Testament we find the book of Malachi and at the end of this book we have a warning to not let go of the Word of God. We also find here the promise of what the returning prophet Elijah would do:

And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:6)

So many parents hold on to these words as a promise not understanding their significance. This is not speaking of family strife but of generations that had turned away from the patriarchs of Israel, who had left the teaching of the ancients and had rebelled against Yahweh. In other words it was speaking of the nation of Israel. So this is the condition of Israel when John the Baptist began preaching and he was effective. The people turned and repented, receiving a baptism of repentance. Jesus had another warning for parents though:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ (Matthew 10:34-36)

Jesus spoke of what is only natural because the flesh cannot be friends with the Spirit nor the Spirit with the flesh because they are contrary. When a son or daughter refuses Christ and the parents stay steadfast then there is division. When the son or daughter belong to Jesus and the parents do not, there will be division. We are going to see much more of it in the days to come as the world sinks deeper into its depravity and the saints continue to stand on the Word. The hatred will grow and we will see greater division. Jesus knew his the cross would not bring peace to the world but would bring peace between those who accepted it and Father. But he warned us:

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (v. 37-38)

Many of us will do anything to have peace in the family. We will be willing to compromise the Word, bend some things that Jesus taught, all for the sake of peace in the house. Peace at all cost, but Jesus warned against it. No matter the cost we must pay, we have to keep to the understanding that Jesus is of highest importance and priority. Even if we lose our entire family as a result, we must stand with Jesus; we must love him more than any other.

Yes parents, our hearts will be crushed as the sin of unbelief divides us from our flesh and blood. Yes children, your hearts will yearn for the council of your dear parents, but our love for Jesus must be superior to all of this. It is hard but that is exactly what the enemy is counting on, that our earthly affections will keep us from Jesus. We cannot compromise on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We cannot compromise on the holiness of our LORD God. We cannot live but the Word of God.

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (v. 39) 

We never lose hope nor give up on those whom we are separated from because of unbelief; we love them too much to give up. But neither do we move from the Rock, upon whom we stand, to be with them in their depravity. Every person will have to make their decision and will be held accountable for that decision. We can pray for them and try to persuade them but they have to make and live with their own decision. Do your best to get them in now because it is almost too late but whatever you do, don't go wandering yourself because the curtain is being drawn on this age. Stand fast my friend and pray.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Are You Robbing God And Being Destroyed In The Process?

I believe that the vast majority of us desire to give our all to Jesus. I believe we want to lay it all on the line and say "Jesus, use me". I believe we are sincere in our desire to love him with all that we are. But I also believe we are lousy with the application of that desire. We have the emotion of it, we feel it, but we don't know how and we get distracted so easily. Because of it, we are falling into traps and we are getting ourselves in trouble. We have to accept that there is some work to this. In order to live by the Word we have to know the Word. To know the Word we need to be meditating on it. After meditating on it, so we have a good understanding through the Spirit, we apply it.

The first words Matthew records Jesus saying are:

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

We have already considered Joshua 1:8 several times:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 

Meditate on it so that you know what you are suppose to do. Jesus says that we live according to the Word. You notice that to Joshua was given the promise that if he lived by the Word it would result in prosperity and success. There was no greater general than Joshua. Even David did not accomplish what Joshua did.

Considering this I want to point out one possible reason why many Christian are finding it hard to push forward. There are many reasons and most of them come down to Christians not knowing the Word just as Yahweh warned us:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children. (Hosea 4:6)

We are being destroyed as a result of our lack of knowledge. Allow me to give you this one example.

Do you know that tithes and offerings are not an invention of the Church or of some greedy pastor who wants your money? Do you know that the children of Adam and Eve tithed? Do you know that Abraham tithed? Do you know that these people lived long before Moses brought in the Law? Do you know that there are people today who teach that because we are no longer under the Law that we do not have to tithe? Do you know that these people are cursed of Yahweh? They are being destroyed because of lack of knowledge.

In Malachi chapter three we find Yahweh trying to turn his people back to him. They are in ignorance, not evening knowing how they are offending him. He tells them that they are stealing from him. How are they stealing from him?

You are robbing me of the offerings and of the ten percent that belongs to me. (v. 8) 

In fact, he tells them that because they are failing to bring in their full tithe and their voluntary contributions, the whole nation is under a curse. The lack of tithes was an indication of their heart condition. Tithing is a response of love. It is not part of some religious system but a response to Father's love for us. Lack of tithe shows a disregard of that love and reveals an ungrateful heart. Do you know there are always promises for obedience to the Words of Yahweh:

Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing. (v. 10)

Christians should understand that their tithes and offerings are like "food in the Lord's house", the Body of Christ. It enables the work of the Church to go forward. Some people want to act like Yahweh and dictate how their tithes and offerings are used, however, these gifts of love belong to Yahweh and he will take care of them. If there are abuses he will deal with it. Are we really saying that the Lord is incapable of looking after what belongs to him?

No, we only need be concerned with walking in obedience. If you continue reading this passage you will see that Yahweh promises protection and prosperity to those who obey. This is the Word of God. Jesus says we are to live by it. The passage also says that we will be so blessed that nations will look at us and call us blessed. Why are we so stuck on money that we are willing to be under the curse instead of walking in the sweetness of obedience?

This is only one thing out of the entire Word that is causing us to be destroyed because of our lack of knowledge of the Word. There are no short cuts. There is no getting around it. You need to take a good chunk of time every day to be reading, hearing, meditating, memorizing the Word and then applying it every single moment of your days. We live by every word that comes from the mouth of Yahweh and it is by doing so that we move forward in our spiritual growth.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Why I Don't Like Superheroes

I'm about to get a lot of people upset at me. I was reminded yesterday why I don't like superheroes. Yes, there I said it: I don't like superheroes. There is one very good reason that a number of people will not understand. Superheroes are a bunch of vigilantes who disperse their version of justice. They are all about justice; punishing the bad guy, if not straight out killing him. We love to cheer the good guy on, even if he has taken on the role for himself and has been given no legal authority. We also cheer him on as he seeks the destruction of the bad guy. As a Christian you should be offended by such a notion.

Now I am not telling you to stop watching superhero movies but I am telling you to be careful of allowing the notion of justice to settle in your heart. If you were to live with this same mindset you would end up living in opposition to most of what Jesus taught and what the Spirit empowers us to live. Father has always had a heart for reconciliation with his enemies over applying justice.

Without a doubt Father has every right to bring justice against the evil doer but before you say Amen to that you had better realize that it was while we were still sinners that Jesus died for us. It is the sinner who is the enemy of Yahweh. Hear the words of Father as Jesus taught us to love our enemies, just as Father was doing through Jesus. He loves his enemy so much that he laid down his life for us. We didn't deserve it. The only thing we deserved was death but instead he chose to reach out with life. This has always been his heart:

For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you. (Malachi 3:6-7)

Apply those verses to your own heart. So many Christians are consumed by guilt because they adhere more to their fear of a just God than they do to a compassionate Father. Yes, we need to feel the conviction of our sin, our rebellion, against him but we must also hear his voice calling us back to him. Don't hide in a cave licking your wounds. Stand in his light; let your shame be exposed; and he will clothe you in his compassionate forgiveness and grace. If he was not the God who never changes, we would be destroyed for our rebellion. Instead we hear him say, return to me and I will return to you.

Father is justice. Those who do not seek his forgiveness will be destroyed. But justice is not what he desires. He has always desired reconciliation and restoration. Why do you think it took him so long to finally send his people into captivity? Why do you think he sent prophet after prophet with great warnings and the call to return to him? He would rather forgive his people then to apply his justice to them. Even then he sent them into captivity to turn their hearts back to him instead of destroying them.

He does not change.

Perhaps you have not been the best Christian. Perhaps you have been a Christian in name only. Maybe you are one who has the appearance of godliness but in private you are a very wicked person. Maybe your sins are not the public sort but Jesus has promised that whatever is done in private will be exposed in public. Perhaps you believe you are a lost cause and you would rather pretend that God does not exist than to deal with your rebellious ways. I'm here to tell you, despite your rebellion, Father still loves you. He is calling to you right now to turn back to him so he can return to you. He does not want to punish you, he wants to be reconciled with you. He does not want to bring you low, he wants to restore you.

If we lived in a world of super heroes there would not be many of us left alive. We would be tracked down by these vigilantes and killed or jailed. You may not think our rebellion is all that major but it is. Praise the Lord we live in an age of grace where Yahweh seeks to forgive the offence instead of punish it. And we who have been forgiven must in turn forgive. We need to seek reconciliation and not justice. We must love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us. We need to let go of our desire for justice and become agents of restoration. We are not agents of Shield seeking justice; we are agents of Grace, desiring to shield.

Friday, April 25, 2014

What To Do When Sin Keeps Knocking

There is a lot of garbage going on which is shooting holes in the faith of many people. When you start wiping out sections of the Word it leaves you wide open to the influence of the enemy. Without the Word you have no solid ground to stand on. That is going to leave you wide open to all kinds of twistings to the morality taught by the Word of God.

As if things weren't already bad enough.

People have always struggled over sin because they try to take it on themselves. They don't understand that sin was defeated by Jesus on the cross and not by our conviction that it is wrong. Conviction has us turn to the only one who can give us freedom; Jesus. Jesus defeated sin and we have been set free so we walk in that freedom.

But what do we do when we keep being defeated by temptation?

We need to understand the nature of temptation. It is attractive. That is how it is designed, to be attractive. It wants to grab our attention and cause us to look at it. It wants to capture our attention so that our heart and mind are distracted from their intended focus. Just look how it played out for Eve:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. (Genesis 3:6)

Eve had successfully fended off the initial lie of the enemy. When he suggested that Eve had misunderstood what Yahweh had said, she told him exactly what he said. That would be great for some leaders to remember these days. But then he managed to convince Eve to consider the fruit. Eve saw the tree. She thought about it, set her mind on it and considered that it was good for food.


It is dangerous when we start to rationalize sin.

As she continued to look on that forbidden thing her rationalization made it become attractive. It became pleasant to her eyes. That rationalization progressed to the point where the attraction became a desire and she convinced herself that it would actually prove beneficial even though it was disobedient to Yahweh. 

All because she gave her mind and her heart to that thing when they actually belonged to someone else.

How do you resist temptation? Cut it off at the roots. Get your mind and heart off of that thing and get them where they belong:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)

Don't make the excuse that the temptation is too strong for you. It has no power over you because sin was stripped of it's power. Now it comes down to your love. Who do you love more, Jesus Christ who died for you, or yourself with all your selfish desires?

Sin has been defeated. Satan has been defeated. You only have one King. Get your eyes off of the "tree" and on the King. Get you mind and heart out of the garbage and get them set on the Kingdom things. Decide who you love and act accordingly. He has empowered you to live a godly life. It's your choice.

Look in the mirror and speak the truth into your life, "I am set free!"

Being Cheap With Jesus

Imagine you were a student and you had a History oral report due. You have been told that you are permitted to use any visual and audio props you wish to include. The teacher says "Knock my socks off with what you can do". You brag to all your friends how fantastic your report is going to be. You build up great expectations for your teacher. To great fanfare it comes to your turn. You stand in front of the class and read from your miserably boring PowerPoint slides. You receive a lousy grade.

Imagine your boss has given you a major project. You get paid a six figure salary to produce excellent work. You receive a great budget for the project because the boss does not want there to be any excuses. With each progress update you build a sense of anticipation for the boss. The buzz is happening throughout the company as everyone looks forward to the results of the project. Finally the due date has arrived. The boss and all employees gathering in the warehouse for the unveiling. After all that time, money and anticipation you present some tooth pick models and children stick figure drawings. You are fired.

Of course these are not things we would offer to people in authority over us. We would do our best to honour their authority. Offering less than our best reveals the condition of our heart and shows great disrespect for the authority. If we can understand this concerning temporary things, why can't we also understand it for the more important permanent spiritual things?

Malachi the prophet records some of Yahweh's complaints against his nation Israel. It was not so much their action as it was what their action revealed about the condition of their hearts. It seems that the attitude Yahweh saw was exactly as described above. The people would make a big show of honouring him with their sacrifices but what they offered was second best. They offered the animals that they could not sell. Whatever was left over is what they put on the altar. Yahweh reminded them, in a very simple but direct manner, who he is:

"For I am a great King", says the Lord of hosts, "And my name is to be feared among the nations." (Malachi 1:14)

The Message puts it in a way we might more readily appreciate:

"I'm a great King, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, honoured far and wide, and I'll not put up with it!"

The people of Israel had moved away from Yahweh and had lost their respectful reverence of who he is. Have you read Revelation recently? Do you know who Jesus is? Do you draw close to him to allow the Spirit to keep alive your reverence of the Name above all names? Do you realize who the Father is and what we owe him? For most people the answer is no. We have tried to make him so user friendly that we have reduced him to best friend and chum. Although there is an element of that familiarity to our relationship, he is so much more than that.

Many of us are just like the Israelites, keeping ourselves at a distance, offering our second best, our left-overs. Instead of offering our first fruits we offer what we think we can afford after everyone else has had a go at our harvest. We usually give to him whatever is left offer of our time, when we are already tired and just wanting to sleep, if we offer any time at all. As for service, it's whatever we can fit in when and if we can fit it in.

Look around at other people's devotion to their gods which are no gods at all. Look at the effort of the Muslims to a god who offers no hope or love. Look at people's dedication to their health or education. Look at the effort people put into their causes. You would think that the Christian who understood who Jesus is and what he has done for us and what he expects from us, would give all that they have to him.

Be hot or cold, said Jesus, just don't be lukewarm. If you are I will spit you out. And that is exactly what most of us have become, lukewarm. Very few are filled with the knowledge, wisdom, power and passion of someone who knows Jesus. We are more the religious type who read their Bible before going to sleep, dutifully say their cold prayers, stoically attend church, pay their tithes and are satisfied with their "sacrifice". It looks good but Father knows our hearts. There is a lot of spitting going on.

We need to re-capture the vision of who Jesus Christ is, after the resurrection. We need to hear those words, "For I am a great King, and my name is to be feared among the nations", and understand who it is we serve. We need to lay it all out on the altar, our very best. Don't harbour the altitude that you can offer something less than you would offer a person of authority on this earth. Our best belongs to Yahweh. Our lives belong to Yahweh. Our time, talents, possessions, relationships all belong to Yahweh. Our lives should reflect our reverence for our Lord. Nothing less will do.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What Is The Purpose Of Your Today?

What is your purpose? Why are you alive today? Why have you been given the gift of life for this specific day? Sometimes we wake up and start to move through our day without giving much thought to it. We get up, grab a shower, eat breakfast, get dressed and walk through our front door into the world without giving any thought to purpose. We think about what we need to get done. We think about our complaints. We think about what we want to do for pleasure. We think about friends and family. We think about stuff but we do not ponder the question, why?

You belong to Jesus Christ. He bought you. You didn't have to accept that purchase. You could have remained a slave to sin but you made the decision to accept the price that Jesus paid for you, so now you belong to him. But for what purpose? Are you just someone for him to throw blessings at, like a pet dog? Hardly. You have become his brother, his sister, a child of Father. You and I are now part of this incredible family. But is there purpose in it?

There is purpose for our life and for each moment of our day and I want you to see it through one simple verse found in Malachi. The context of this verse is interesting. Yahweh is chastising Israel for her neglect of their relationship. She took her relationship with Yahweh for granted and abandoned him and her purpose, to live a life she chose. But in the midst of the chastisement we find this gem of a verse which sheds some light on our relationship with Yahweh:

For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name shall be great among the nations,”
Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1:11)

Israel had rejected Yahweh and Yahweh was about to reject the people of Israel. But the Lord will never be without praise and worship. His name will never fail to be lifted up. Israel's purpose was not to become great for her own sake; she was to become great by the hand of Yahweh so that all nations would see the glory of Yahweh through Israel. But he could not bless her as he intended because of her disobedience. Yet, he had a plan that would still allow the nations to discover his glory and enter into relationship with him. That plan was Jesus.

What Yahweh stated through Malachi the prophet has come to pass. Consider the Church, a people who were not a people, the Body of Christ spread around the globe, found in every nation. Wherever you find a Christian you find the Church and you find the Spirit of God. Wherever you find the Church you find praise and worship, the lifting up of the name of Jesus. The sun never sets on the Church. The praise of Yahweh never ends, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, around the entire globe. While we are sleeping, brothers and sisters on the other side of the world are lifting up the name of Jesus. His name is great among the Gentiles.

It is interesting to study and investigate the incense offering but let us simply say here that it represents prayer and worship. The offering of incense was an act of worship in ancient days and was combined with prayer. Often incense was mixed with other types of offerings. What are the fundamentals of our relationship with Yahweh? Prayer and worship. And these are offered up in the name of Jesus all around the globe, in every country, all the time, as the saints seek the face of Yahweh.  His name is glorified among us and it comes from sincere hearts, completely possessed by the love of Jesus. It is our purpose today and every day.

As you open your eyes today I pray you will realize that you have a great purpose and responsibility: To bring glory and honour to Jesus. It is not a secondary thought after your 'To Do' list. It is the purpose of the air in our lungs. We worship him in prayer but also in our actions and words throughout the day. We have the same purpose of Israel, to allow Yahweh to bring glory to himself through us; through our strengths and weaknesses, our victories and defeats, in the sunshine and rain. Yahweh will never be without worship; all praise is due him. If you do not understand anything else about your purpose today understand that you have purpose and it is to worship Jesus in all your living so others will see his glory.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Not By Might Nor By Power But By My Spirit

There are so many things I want to do, so many things I want to accomplish. Vision has seldom been my problem but getting it done often is. Most of us have goals, dreams, plans that we want to accomplish but many people don't even come close to completing any of them. Life is filled with obstacles, challenges, detours, traps, pitfalls, failures, and delays. Most people change their dreams and goals, finding an easier path when the one they have chosen proves more difficult than they thought. Some people chalk it up to lack of determination. I think there is something wrong with the whole premise.

Most of us live like the Sadducees of Jesus' three year ministry days. They believed that Yahweh had no involvement in our daily living, that we had to do the best we could on our own. They also believed the soul died with the body so there were no consequences to face after death, allowing us to do what we want to do. Most of us make our own plans and do what we want to do, still loving Jesus but not involving him in any part of our life; unless we get in trouble. If we act this way it is how Father is going to deal with us. He will be hands off until we get ourselves in so much trouble that we call out to him for help. But there is a better way.

Our life is no longer our own. That is our reality when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, asking for forgiveness and claiming him as Lord. We are re-birthed as a new creation, a citizen of the Kingdom and a child of Father. We are now governed by the principles of the Kingdom and not by the patterns of this world. Jesus purchased us at great cost and we now belong exclusively to him. This means that we no longer determine our days but seek Father's will for our days and situations. We don't have goals and dreams of our own; we have the goals and desires of Father. But even understanding this we can make mistakes.

Sometimes we understand clearly the will of Father and what we are to work towards but we forget that it is his work. Quite often the goal is Father's but we think the work is ours. Even the work belongs to Father. He has planned for it, provides for it and has purpose for it. It will be achieved accordingly. Not by what we think or our schedule and certainly not by our resources. We find an example of this in Zerubbabel.

Zerubbabel was sent out of captivity to Jerusalem to head up the Temple re-building project. The task sounds easier than it was. He was hand picked by Yahweh to complete this task but he had a huge list of obstacles in his way. It was a discouraging work and one that required a great deal of determination. But determination alone wasn't enough. His strength and encouragement had to be found in his relationship with Yahweh and the constant reminder that this was Yahweh's work. At one point the prophet Zechariah provided him words of encouragement from the Lord and he reminded him:

"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit," says the Lord of Hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)

Yes, not just a New Testament thing. Not by might, force, strength, weapons or intelligence. Not by power, influence, friends, wealth, political clout, position. In other words, this project, which was the will of Yahweh, would not be forced into place by the will of man. This would be accomplished by his Spirit, will , desire, power, presence, strength, force. It did not matter what obstacles Zerubbabel faced, Yahweh told him he would turn the mountains into mole hills. Nothing frustrates the will of Jehovah. Therein lies the difference between our goals and Father's will.

If you are involved in a God-thing, do not be discouraged. It will be completed by his Spirit, his will, his time schedule, by the path he has determined. He will use you to do it but he determines how, when and with what. You just concentrate on the relationship part of things, stay focused on Jesus, attentive to his Word and remain open to the Spirit and he will provide everything you need. And be patient. However, if you are not involved in a God-thing and working on a You-thing you should stop what you are doing, drop to your knees and desire a greater relationship with Jesus. Forget everything else and just focus on him and soon everything will come into proper focus for you. We need to meditate on this Psalm:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

Too many of us are building our own houses because it is all we know. It is what we have learned from our fathers before us. It is the sample we see all around us. No one has told us any different. But the Word is in our hand and the Spirit is in us. The Word shows us the ways of the Lord, teaches us the paths, leads us in the truth. The Spirit instructs us if we will get out of our own way. The key is the relationship. Concentrate on the relationship and we will soon discover that it is not by might, nor by power but by his Spirit. Allow Father to complete his will for you according to his Spirit. Walk with him, not ahead of him.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

They Key Is Intimacy

Recently I was reading a book published in 1976 that briefly touched on the growing danger facing the Church. The author spoke of the world turning from the Church and how the Church herself was becoming weaker from the lack of her members turning to the Lord. This was 1976! Now we know that the Church can never be defeated but she is certainly facing the danger of people forgetting who they are in Jesus. We are seeing many flames being put out as the passion is disappearing. We need to hear the voice from the wilderness again calling out, warning us to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

Israel faced the same problems the Church is facing today. People got distracted. Some put all their faith in a king. Others turned to the idols of other nations. Most were only concerned with their own well being. Almost all set aside their devotion to Yahweh. In Zephaniah we find this simple verse in a prophecy spoken against Jerusalem:

She has not obeyed His voice,
She has not received correction;
She has not trusted in the Lord,
She has not drawn near to her God. (3:2)

There is something here we should pay attention to; something we should use to examine our own heart. Today the message is constantly "stay positive". We pastors are told to help people feel good about themselves, about their situation. We are to look for the positive in every situation and emphasize it so their eyes will be distracted from the darker parts. I think we are wrong in such an approach to ministry. There is no healing in this, only avoidance. If pastors want to be good shepherds then we need to help people examine everything to discover Yahweh in it, so we can grow into maturity, not disappear into make believe.

"She has not obeyed His voice." It is hard to obey when we don't know the Word. That is the very first spiritual discipline that should be in place: A healthy relationship with the Word of God. Without the Word hidden in our heart how will we recognize the voice of the Lord? Without the Word how can we know his ways, his path, his truth? Without the Word we cannot know the importance of obedience. Without the Word we cannot know the consequences of disobedience. We need to hear, read, study, meditate on and apply the Word every single day of our life. Meditating on it day and night will bring prosperity and success, according to the Word, but not as some understand it today. If you have such an attitude toward the Word you will make it to the end.

"She has not received correction." Correction is not punishment. Yahweh does not punish, yet. That day is coming but for today he applies correction to his children. Correction teaches us where we went wrong. It teaches us how not to do the same thing again.Correction is a tough lesson applied by a loving Father. The purpose of correction is to increase us not to destroy us. Correction goes against our will and requires submission. If you have a healthy attitude toward correction from the Lord you will grow quickly and steadily.

"She has not trusted in the Lord." The instruction of the Lord is good and it is clear. The correction of the Lord is good and it is clear. But for many of us our trust is insincere. We say that we trust Jesus with our lips but our actions prove otherwise. Almost all of us do what we think is best without any consideration of what the Spirit is instructing. We prove that we trust ourselves over the Lord which is pretty foolish considering the actions of our past. Trust is about relationship and if we are not obeying his voice and not accepting his correction, we don't have much of a relationship.

"She has not drawn near to her God." Exactly! This is the key. Without intimacy there is no obedience, correction or trust. Without obedience, correction and trust there is no intimacy. It is intimacy that Yahweh has always yearned for. Discover the "oneness" that Jesus spoke about in John and you will understand. "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart ..." He is standing and waiting for us, having drawn near to us. Now we have to turn to him and draw near to him. Seek my face, he says, and you will find me.

We are the only one responsible for the condition of our relationship with Jesus. We can't blame anyone or anything else for it's lack of intimacy and passion. Take action to find intimacy with him. Meditate on this one simple verse and ask yourself where you stand with Jesus today.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Why Aren't The Faithful Better Off?

Have you ever had some questions from people about Yahweh that have been hard to answer? One of the classics is, "If God is so great and loving, why are there such bad things in the world?" Habakkuk was a prophet who asked Yahweh some tough questions. One of them can be summed up by "Why do good people seem to suffer and the bad seem to prosper?" That's a great question and it may surprise you that Yahweh answered. But his answer involved a vision about the end times:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. (Habakkuk 2:3)

And then he says something that acts like a springboard into the famous passage of woes. He tells Habakkuk the prophet:

Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith. (v.4)

Habakkuk's question was about the proud people of the world, the ones who achieved things by their own strength. Perhaps they were arrogant in attitude or maybe they were just arrogant at heart, but these people figured they did not need Yahweh because they achieved a good life on their own. But it isn't about a good, comfortable, well off life filled with luxury or even fame.

Life here is about faith. It is about learning to trust Yahweh. It is about learning to seek his strength and help in all situations and circumstances in life. It is about allowing him to use those things to change us, to change our character to his liking. It is about maturing in our faith. On this side of the cross, it is about maturing into the full measure of Jesus. This life is a journey of growth and change as we carry out the work of our Lord Jesus. It is a life of faithfulness to our God, our Lord, our Father.

Yahweh then tells Habakkuk what will happen to the proud people, the independent people, the ones who thought they could get along without Yahweh, not understanding it has always been all about Yahweh. He tells him that in the end each person will get their reward. He tells him of the judgement that is to come. Jesus said that such people have received all they are going to get here but the righteous have a greater reward waiting for us.

We can't forget that Yahweh is just and people will receive from him what he has promised. If he promised good it will be good but if he has promised punishment then they will be punished. This is why we praise him that he has rescued us from this judgement and has covered us by his grace. We deserved the judgement, we are no better than the proud, but we have accepted his rescue plan and now stand covered by the blood of the sacrificial Lamb. Yahweh sees everything and everything will be judged against those who turn their back on his hand of love and grace. We should not feel envious of these people but instead our hearts should be filled with pity; we know what's coming.

When Habakkuk received this vision as a response to his question, he burst out into praise and he ended with a declaration of faith. I am wondering if our relationship with Jesus is mature enough to declare and apply Habakkuk's prayer. It is a prayer that brings a counter effect against any envy you may feel towards those who seem to be having an easier time  with life:

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills. (3:17-19)


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Resurrection Day: What's In A Name

Try to imagine what it must have been like for the disciples of Jesus, now a few days after his death. In the last three years their whole life had become the Master; their purpose for living, for waking every morning, for everything they did in a day. He was their hope, their promise, their future. They left everything for him, even when their friends and relatives thought them to be mad, but how could they resist him? How could they say no? And now he was dead.

They were holed up behind a locked door in a small room, anticipating a pounding fist on the door at any minute from the soldiers as they tracked them down. It was only a matter of time. They would track them all down, if it took them a lifetime to do it, just to get rid of the Master's name. The smell of fear was mixed with grief and despondency. Imagine what it must have been like in that room with the Master dead and no hope for tomorrow.

Imagine as well how they must have jumped out of their skin as suddenly fists began to pound on the door. Only it wasn't  soldiers; it was the women. Confusion. Panic. The sound of your heart pounding in your ears.

The door is opened and the women almost tumble in. Something is wrong. The colour is drained from Mary's face. Her voice is barely audible, yet they all heard her words.

"They've taken him."

The sound and meaning of the words are not long in registering but the feet are slow to react. What was that about an angel? Everyone looks to each other. What are they to do?

It only takes two heart beats before John takes action. And quick on his heels is Peter. I wonder what they thought as they ran. Perhaps it was pure emotions as rage took over. It had to be something strong to bring them out of hiding like this. Mary said the tomb is open.

John was the better runner, reaching the tomb before Peter. He was the youngest of the group. But Peter wasn't doing too bad for an old man. Sure enough, the stone was rolled to one side. Something held John back. He stood at the entrance and peered into the dark, straining to see anything in the early morning light. His heart was racing and it probably wasn't from the running.

Peter arrived but he did not slow down at the entrance, brushing past John and only stopping when he hit the back wall of the tomb. The only sound was the panting of the two men as they gasped for air, sucking it into their bodies through clinched teeth.

The body was gone.

Just as the women had said, he was gone. The grave clothes were there, looking odd in their placement. The linens that wrapped the body lay there as if someone had somehow sucked the body out. And over in the corner, the grave clothes, the one that covers the head, were neatly folded. Who would have done this? It didn't look like the work of any soldiers.

Peter and John left the tomb, disturbed at what they have found. They walked slowly back without saying a word. Bewildered. Angry. Despondent. Fearful. But mostly lost. They walked past Mary with no acknowledgement of her presence. These were just shells of men brushing past her, so different from who they were just a few days ago. Their purpose for living was gone. And those filthy Pharisees couldn't even leave his body alone.

Mary stood outside of the tomb and watched them go. What was to become of them? How could they go on? And now even his body was taken from them? A wave of grief overcame Mary and she collapsed in a heap of flesh and tears. She could hold it back no longer as a great cry of wailing tore itself from her throat.

Who knows how long she remained there but eventually everything grew quiet again. Had she fallen asleep?

Mary sat up with a start. Was that the sound of rustling she heard in the tomb? Were the robbers back? How did they get past her without her noticing? Perhaps she had fallen asleep? But now rage filled her body, along with a twinge of fear, but mostly rage at the thought that they had come back. She picked herself up from the ground  and carefully peered into the tomb.

At first she couldn't see anything. The sun was much brighter now and the contrast between the bright sun and the dark tomb was too much. She stuck her head further into the dark of the tomb. Her eyes began to adjust.

She gasped.

There, sitting at the head and the foot of the linens sat two angels. Mary blinked. They were still there. She pinched herself. They were still there. They were smiling at her. She felt faint. She refused to give into her body and held tighter to the wall of the tomb.

“Woman, why are you crying?”

They had spoken. Angels were speaking to her. She answered without much thought to what she was saying. It was automatic.

They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”

The wave of grief that came over her almost dropped her to her knees again. Angels or not she could not handle any more of this. She quickly turned to leave and let out a small shriek of fright. A man was standing behind her. The gardener she supposed. A quiet one. He looked at her, concerned. There was such compassion in his eyes.

“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

The thought suddenly flashed through her mind. This was the gardener? If anyone knows where the body has gone he would know.

“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Why was he smiling at her like that? Did she know him? Was he playing some kind of game with her? She felt like her whole world was crashing down on her. Any second now she was going to run off crying again.



Could it be?

At the sound of her name spoken from those precious lips her head exploded with a million different colours. The whole world turned sideways and started to spin. She couldn't breathe. She literally could not breathe. Even her heart had stopped knowing how to work.

As she dropped to her knees yet again she heard her own voice cry out, "Rabonni!" It was him. It was the Teacher. The Master. It was Jesus!

She brushed the impossibility aside as she reached out to grasp his legs. But he stepped back. Out of reach. Her great tears of joy stopped and she looked up at him in confusion. Was she mistaken? Was this not Jesus? No, it was him. She could see it clearly now in his eyes and smile. And how could she ever mistake the way he said her name. Her name pronounced on those beautiful lips. She thought she would never hear such a wonderful thing again in all her life. But why was he moving away from her?

“Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

She did not understand much but she did understand this: the Teacher needed her again. She quickly jumped to her feet and ran as fast as her body would carry her. She felt alive again. Excitement flowed from the top of her head to the soles of her pounding feet. Her mind swam with a thousand thoughts but one was greater than all the rest:

"He's alive!"

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Are We To Take Away From The Experience Of The Cross?

And heaven is silent.

What happened between the crucifixion and the resurrection? We have no idea. We can speculate but the Scriptures are silent about the happenings in the spiritual realms. Perhaps heaven rested, waiting in anticipation as the disciples found each other and went into hiding. We are left to ponder and simply reflect on the amazing work done on the cross.


I think the work done on the cross can be summed up in one very poignant moment. It is when Jesus called out for the forgiveness of his enemies, as they drove those spikes through his flesh:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. (Luke 23:34)

This should take us back to his earlier teaching on loving our enemies:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-28)

Jesus lived out on the cross what he had taught his disciples:

Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (v. 37)

The whole message of the cross is Yahweh forgiving his enemies: us. Wherever the blood of the sacrificial Lamb is applied, the judgment of Yahweh will pass over. That is the great victory of the cross and we celebrate it wholeheartedly. What a fantastic thing Jesus has done for us and at great cost. But the message of the cross is not just about what has been done for us.

Jesus' message was very clear before the cross: Following him as his disciple was not just about receiving from him, but it was about us giving out. He told his disciples, "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8) He told the parable about the king who forgave his servant's great debt and how that servant went out and refused to forgive his fellow servant, so the king withdrew his forgiveness. The servant was thrown into jail. We should also understand the effects of unforgiveness on our heart.

Unforgiveness blocks all the work of the Spirit in us. Love cannot survive in a heart possessed by unforgiveness. Neither can any of the fruit of love, such as kindness and generosity. That heart is in danger of becoming as hard as stone. Jesus made it sound simple because it really is a simple matter:

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)

It is deciding to love instead of hate. It is deciding that if Jesus could forgive us of all our sins we can easily forgive the comparably small things people do against us. It is putting the spiritual ahead of the physical. It is understanding that emotions require the discipline that comes with love. Forgiveness requires us to realize and accept that love dictates the need for us to put another person's well being over any concern for ourselves. That is what Jesus did on the cross and he did it to the extreme. If Jesus could suffer as he did for our forgiveness, how can we not suffer a little to forgive those who harm us?

Forgiveness is the message of the cross. Forgiveness must be the theme of our lives.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Passion Week: It Is Finished

This is not normal.

It is so dark. It's like the sun has ceased to be.

And these people. The constant coming and going. Normally it is just family. Why all these others? Why the priests?

The struggle is almost over. The guy doesn't have much energy left. He wouldn't even take the sour wine. Why would he refuse that? His pain must be driving him insane.

This just doesn't feel right.

Out of the thousands of these I have taken part in, this one is just plain spooky.

“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”

What did he say? I didn't think he had a dad. His mother is here but I haven't seen a dad all day. Maybe he didn't care enough to be here.

Poor guy, his mind really is snapping.

“It is finished!”

What's finished?

So it's done then.

“Certainly this was a righteous Man!”

Passion Week: The Mocking

King of the Jews they say.

Ha! The guy isn't the king of the dirt at the moment. I've never seen anyone so badly worked over as this guy. I'm surprised he lived long enough to be crucified. It's hard to look at.

“You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!"

Wow! The crowd seems to be agitated today, but in a weird way. They seem to have something against this guy. Normally they're shooting and screaming at us, not the ones hanging. What's up with this?

"If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."

Son of God? Who said anything about a son of god? I thought the charge was about being a king.

It's bad enough to be hanging from that thing but what's with all this hate? Oh, and they are here too. Don't often see the priests at these things. They are usually in the city causing problems for these poor saps. I have no idea why these people put up with them.

“He saved others; Himself He cannot save."

I haven't even heard of this guy. There hasn't been any riots in a few weeks. No uprising. No army marching on any of the garrisons. What king of king is this? And if he was their king, shouldn't this guy be their hero? This place makes no sense to me.

Looks like my buddies are getting in on the act.

“If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”

I guess this job gets to a guy after a while. It's so boring. Normally we have to wait around 5 days and longer for them to finally die. I get a feeling this one is going to be different. He's practically dead now. I don't think he last 5 hours let alone 5 days. There isn't much left to him.

Why mock the dead? Wish they would just let him suffer in quiet.

“If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

This is a day of firsts. Even the other criminals are at him. He must have ticked someone off somewhere. Doesn't matter to me but it's a poor way to die.

Still ... who is this guy?